Thai police arrest British drug smuggling suspect

BANGKOK (AP) — Thai police on Wednesday arrested an Englishman whom French police accuse of masterminding a gang that sought to smuggle cocaine and heroin through France into England six years ago.

Michael Alan France, 53, was arrested Wednesday in the seaside resort town of Cha-Am, where he had purchased a luxury condominium after fleeing to Thailand in 2008, said Immigration Police Chief Lt. Gen. Panu Kerdlarppol. He was arrested based on information from French law enforcement officials through the country's embassy in Thailand.

Panu said the suspect fled France after customs officers in the north of the country on Sept. 5, 2008, arrested a group of Englishmen with 28.55 kilograms (57.1 pounds) of cocaine and 95.11 kilograms (43.23 pounds) of heroin in their car. An investigation by French authorities determined that the gang, whose members were paid 3,700-10,000 pounds ($6,196-10,734) per shipment, had been active for 18 months and smuggled 375 kilograms of drugs in all.

French officials told their Thai counterparts that the suspect had hired the men to transport the drugs. France said at a police news conference that he had been unaware of the allegations against him.

Panu said France would be interrogated and his case forwarded to Thai prosecutors for further action.

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